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Few Crops Are More Prolific
than Summer Squash

By Bill Shores

Summer squash is an easy and satisfying crop. Plant squash when the soil is warm and the weather is settled. It is a tropical plant that cannot stand cold weather.

Summer squash does best tin well drained soil, high in organic matter. Work an inch or two of compost into a well dug bed, then plant the seeds in rows or hills, allowing 2" on all sides for the bush varieties or 4í for the vining varieties. Transplants may be used, but will set back considerable when the sensitive roots are disturbed.

Once fruiting begins, gardeners need to be vigilant, harvesting daily. Harvest squash at 6-8" long for optimum flavor and texture. Be careful not to bruise the fruits. Use a knife to cut the stem and avoid damaging the plant.

Sudden wilting of vine tips indicates an infestation of squash borers. They are fat, white or striped grubs which feed on the insides of the stems. Look for holes in the stems which may be surrounded by a sawdust like material. Carefully split open the stem and remove the grub, or spray bacillus thuringensis directly into the stem with a needle and syringe.

Squash bugs are 1/2 " long, shield shaped insects which fed on the plants and spread the fatal disease called bacterial wilt. The base of the stems get a chewed appearance, and soon after, the plants wilt and die. Prevent bacterial wilt by strictly controlling the insects by using a row cover or hand picking. If you use row covers, be sure to remove them before the plants flower to ensure pollination. Rewove any diseased plants immediately and burn.

Cucumber beetles feed on young plants and can also spread disease. They look like yellow lady bugs with either black spots or stripes. Make sure you wash your hands after handling diseased plants, you can spread the problem too.

Companion Plants such as radish, marigold and tansy contain substances which repel and confuse insects looking for a preferred food.

The speed at which the squash grows is legendary. Unless you are really into zucchini bread, a few plats should supply your family. try sunburst crooknecks, and the white patty pan for an eye catching bed, along with striped cocoselle zucchini.